ESPNCricinfo– Australia’s coach Justin Langer admits the four months that remain for Steven Smith and David Warner to serve their Cricket Australia-imposed bans may be necessary time to rebuild relationships and ensure that the former leaders, alongside Cameron Bancroft, can be properly integrated members of the national team.
Langer has made a point of including Warner and Smith in the Australian team’s activities in Sydney this week, having them tested out by Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins in the SCG nets on Sunday and Monday respectively, while he also met for breakfast with Smith in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, having already caught up with Warner in person prior to the UAE tour.
While Langer denied that it was a deliberate move on his part to meet with Smith and Warner separately, he stated that it would take plenty of time – now both players know that their bans will be upheld in full – to reintegrate them. Smith and Warner have met at least once to share a meal in Sydney in recent months, but it is clear that their relationship needs more time and effort to mend in the wake of the Newlands scandal.
“There’s going to be a process for the boys to come back and it is really important we start working on that process from now,” Langer told reporters in Sydney ahead of the annual Bradman Foundation dinner. “We can’t get to the point and just say ‘right they’re back’. It’s not fair on them, it’s not fair on the team, it’s not fair on everyone. It’s nice to have Davey in and Steve had a hit yesterday, I had breakfast with him on Monday morning and I caught up with Davey for a couple of hours that afternoon as well.
“I didn’t deliberately catch up with them separately. I caught up with Davey in Brisbane before we went to the UAE because I wanted to see him face to face. It’s one thing exchanging text messages and emails, you have to talk face to face. We had a great catch-up. It was the first time I’d seen Steven the other day. I wanted it to be between us because there’s lots to be spoken about and then over time we’ll bring the brotherhood together and everything will be okay. It was great.
“I speak to Cameron Bancroft a bit, they’ve been through a tough 12 months, they’ve been penalised for making a really big mistake, no doubt about that, but we’ve got to get them into the group and every opportunity we get is a positive one.”
Having been national team coach since May, Langer this week told his mentor Alan Jones in a radio interview that the early passages of his four-year contract have been like “navigating through a fire”. He reiterated a message also delivered on his first day as coach that he paralleled Australian cricket now with where Western Australia was at when he took over a fractious team, state association and wider cricket community in late 2012, before bringing the disparate groups together over time.
“I think we have all got to get together,” Langer said. “When I first took over Western Australian cricket it was like a dysfunctional family and what I meant by that then the media hated the team, the team hated them back, club cricket hated the WACA, the WACA hated them back, the past players hated the WACA, the WACA hated them back.
“There was a lot of angst. I’m probably feeling that a bit now in Australian cricket, there’s a lot of angst and for someone who is passionate about Australian cricket and now the coach I like harmony. I like family. A lot’s gone on, let’s not shy away from that, the closer we can bring the family back together, you would say a dysfunctional family, I know that’s a headline for you, but that’s what I felt back then.
“If you think about the ACA and CA, the public and the team, the media and the team, it’s a bit disjointed at the moment, the more we can bring it back, the more harmony you get the happier environment for everyone. That includes the boys.”
Langer was inducted as an honouree of the Bradman Foundation alongside his former opening partner Matthew Hayden on Tuesday night, having written to Sir Donald Bradman for advice as a young player in the early 1990s. Some catch-up time with Hayden, the other half of an opening combination that broke all manner of records between 2001 and 2007, allowed Langer’s mind some rest from the struggles of the moment.
“I went out for dinner with Haydos last night, it was the first time I’ve laughed for about six months I reckon. It was a good night and it puts things in perspective,” he said. “I know what you need in the dressing room, I’ve been in great dressing rooms, I’ve been in poor ones too, you have to create it and it takes some time but when you do get it, it’s a special place. They were like my brothers, that’s what it ends up being in a great team, it’s a bit cheesy but it’s true.”